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Cambridge Rugby Shield


Oct 16

Blackheath Preview

Sometime you have to be very careful what you wish for, especially if the wishes are being granted by a capricious spirit such as a Psammead. Last season, Cambridge wished for promotion, this season they have to live with the consequences. Yes, we are playing against some of the great clubs - but the down side is we are playing against the great clubs. The stakes are high and there is little room for error.

This Saturday the Blood and Sand take on Blackheath Football Club - possibly the oldest football club in the world. Founded by old boys of Blackheath School, but never restricted to old boys, their early rivalry was against the school. So fans cheer for "Club" to reduce confusion - just as we might cheer for "Town" in our match against "Gown".  They were founding members of the FA - withdrawing over the banning of hacking - and of the the RFU. Their home ground, the Rectory Field hosted some of the first internationals.

However, we are not visiting the Rec, as from this season the 1st XV are playing a few miles away at the Well Hall Pleasance. The club have not left the Rectory Field entirely, the mini and youth are still using the pitches there. However, a dispute over facilities and costs  with the landlords - the cricket club - have led to the short move.

Well Hall was the childhood home of E Nesbitt, author of "Five Children and It" - where we first meet the wish granting send nymph the Psammead - and nearly 60 other books for children and for adults.  The house is no longer there but the gardens remain as the Pleasaunce or pleasure gardens. The gardens are home to the only surviving Tudor barn in London. This has now been restored as a gastro pub.

With the relegation of Wharfedale, Blackheath are now the longest serving side at level three and have never been below level 4. Cambridge and Club had some epic encounters in our last period at level 3. Rectory Field was a bogey venue for Cambridge, who only one their once, a 41-43 thriller in 2009 - though we did do better at home.

Although they lost their opening fixture to Hartpury, Club have won their last six encounters, including a win away at fellow chargers Ampthill last week. This leaves them third in the table, level on points with Moseley. So we can expect another tough away game. Hopefully, we have learnt lessons from the defeat in Birmingham and gained some confidence form the win against Macclesfield and will take this improvement into the fixture.

It is only a short journey, and the more supporters we can take the more it will lift the team. So if you can make the journey please do. The ground is a short walk from Eltham station - which is served by trains from London Bridge and Victoria. The entrance is on Kidbrooke lane, off Westhorne Avenue. Use SE9 6TE as the post code for your sat nav if you are driving.

Oct 16

Dickie Jeeps

Dickie Jeeps

We are sad to inform our supporters that Dickie Jeeps has passed away, aged 84.

Dickie played for us twice, starting out in 1949 before moving to Northampton Saints in 1952, during which time he represented the England and the British Lions.  He returned to us in 1968. 

He was always a staunch supporter of our club and will be missed.

You can read the Cambridge News tribute here, and a British & Irish Lions tribute here


For those who would like to attend the funeral the details are as follows:

28th October Service at 12 noon in Holy Trinity Church Bottisham Cambridgeshire.
then to - Links Golf Club Newmarket for refreshments.

Family service at Bury St. Edmunds Crematorium, at 16:30
Family flowers only please.

Donations for Alziemers Research would be gratefully received in Dickie's memory by - Southgate of Newmarket Funeral Directors, 25 Duchess Drive, Newmarket, CB8 8AG.

Oct 16

Moseley Preview

When I was a nipper watching Rugby Special, Moseley were one of the great clubs. So it is hard to comprehend that this season we will be playing them in the league for the first time. Though this season they are officially Birmingham Moseley - presumably because to may Southerners thought the club was next door to Esher.

Moseley were the club that inflicted the first defeat on a touring side - beating the New Zealand "Natives" side in 1882. They also provided most of the side that won the Silver medal in the Paris Olympics. They reached the very first RFU Cup final in 1972 losing to Gloucester. In 1973 they beat Fiji in a tour match. In 1979 they lost to Leicester in the John Player Cup final and in 1982 they drew with Gloucester to share the Cup.

When the league system was introduced in 1987 they were placed in the top level, dropping to tier two in 1991. They struggled with the introduction of professionalism and in 1998 went into administration. This meant they were forced to leave their traditional home at the Reddings and moved to a ground share with the university. However, planning problems meant they were never able to develop the ground. This caused more financial problems and a there was even a proposed move to Oxford to play at the Kazzam. A local consortium saved the club - but player turnover led to a second demotion and the clubs first spell at Level 3.

In 2005 they moved to their current home at Billesley Common and they ended that season as champions. In 2009 they won the National Trophy - which presumably they still hold as it has not been contested since. However, once the Championship was reduced to 12 teams they were never really able to do much more than survive. Eventually being relegated last season. In the ten years they have spent on the Common they have been regularly improving the facilities. Supporters have a choice between the open stand or paying extra for a seat in the covered stand.

Moseley started this season with four straight wins, but lost away at Ampthill this Saturday. This leaves them in a group of four clubs on 18 points behind Hartpury College.

Those who make the trip should see two well known faces. Tom Fiddler and Elliot Bale have both joined Moseley this season. Directions to the ground can be found here - the club asks visitors approach the ground from M42 Junction 3 and North on the A435 rather than coming in through Solihull as your sat nav might suggest. Alternatively, if you want to let the train take the strain. the No. 2 bus takes you from New St Station to the ground.


Sep 16

Loughborough Students Preview

This Saturday the Blood and Sand entertain Loughborough Students. We will hope to replicate the result from their last visit in 2012 - when we won 25-18. However such is the turnover of players that from the squad that ran out that day, only Mike Ayrton and Albert Portsmouth remain with Cambridge - and Loughborough being a student side have replaced their entire squad.

Loughborough have had a mixed start to the season, winning two games and losing two. The lost at Coventry, beat Hull Ionians at home and away at Blaydon and lost at home to Ampthill.

The University dates back to the formation for the Technical Institute in 1909. Under its first Principal Herbert Schofield it grew rapidly. It split off a Teacher Training College, a College of Art and Further Education College. 

In 1953, Herbert Haslegrave took over as Principal of the then College of Technology. Herbert was an apprentice a English Electric, he did a distance degree at London before winning a scholarship to Trinity Hall, where he got a first in Mathematics. Under his leadership the college gained the status of a College of Advanced Technology.

In 1963 the Robbins report proposed increasing the number of Universities - so all the CATs become Universities. Loughborough University of Technology has since absorbed the Teacher Training College and the Arts College - so it dropped the "of Technology" description.

From the start, the colleges have supported sporting excellence. Rugby has been played at Loughborough since 1919. The college side was admitted to the UAU in 1931 - despite not being a university. There is a complex history - due to the Until 1976 there were separate teams - but since then it has been a single club.

The Students Union represents all students in Loughborough, including those at the Technology and RNIB colleges. Which is one of the reasons it owns its own lands and buildings separately from the University - a status it claims to be unique.

The Men's Rugby XV were offered a place at level 4 of the leagues when they were introduced, but turned it down. They finally joined in 1996 but were placed at the bottom of the pyramid. Many promotions followed with them reaching National 1 in 2012.

The Students also have a midweek team - effectively their seconds - that plays in the BUCS league. The vagaries of scheduling meant that they visited Cambridge to face the Light Blues on Wednesday in a friendly. The visitors proved too strong and won 5-38. We shall have to hope the Blood and Sand do better against the Saturday side at Volac Park.

So come down to Volac Park and cheer on the Blod and Sand in their battle against the African Violet.


Sep 16

Darlington Mowden Park away

So this Saturday Cambridge head to the home of the railways to take on Darlington Mowden Park.

Darlington is in the Tees Valey. King James visited in 1603 on his way South to London and described it as "a mucky, mucky town and mair shame on its people." But by the 19th century a handful of Quaker families had led a civic revivial, bequesthing the town some fine Georgian architecture. Perhaps the most famous of these was the Pease family. They were rich wool merchants who diverified into banking - they were also prominent in the Peace Society and Anti-Slavery Society.

When there was a plan for a canal to move coal from the Durham hills to the wharves at Stockton, they instead suggested a railway and hired George Stephenson to build it. The railway opened on Spetember 25th 1825, the train had space for three hundred passengers, but six hundred crowded aboard, thus we can see overcrowding has been endemic on our railway from the very first journey.

Alhough they did carry passengers, coal generated the income. There were insufficient steam engines and they were unreliable, so most trips were still horse drawn. The trains were equipped with a so called dandy cart in which the horse could rest and eat hay as the full waggons rolled down hill to the Tees. The horse then pulled the empty waggons back up to the mines.

Although overbudget, the railway made significant profit. It soon outgrew the limited quay at Stockton and built the larger docks at Middlesborough. It was soon providing half he coal burned in London. It linked up with North Eastern Railway, with Darlington still a stop on the East Coast Main Line. The original Stockton and Darlington track still in use as the Tees Valley line. Locomotion No. 1, the engine that pulled the first passenger train, is on display in the Head of Steam museum at the station.

The Pease family used the wealth from the railway to build Mowdem Hall on the outskirts of the town. They sold the house in the 1930s when it became a school and more recently Government offices. In the 1960s a housing esate was built in its grounds. In 1970 the Darlington Grammar School Old Boys culb was looking for a new home and were able to buy land in Mowdem and as like many other side, they had stoped being just an Old Boys side changed their name to Darlington Mowdem Park. Recently they were offered the chance of buying 25,000 seater Darlington Arena from the bankrupt Darlington FC, so moved again. I am told the arena has a wide pitch with a firm surface - which encourages running and passing play to stretch the opposition. There is however a swirling wind that can make kicking dificult.

This is our first encounter in the leagues and as far as I know we have not met in the cup.

Darlington Mowden Park had three successive championships in 1999, 2000 and 2001 to reach National 2 North for the first time - but did not survive. It was not until 2012 they regained level four. In 2014 they were runners up and hosted Ampthill in the play-off. The match went to extra time, before DMP prevailed. In the last two seasons they have finished 9th and 7th.

From what I can gather the DMP side have pace a plenty in the backs and a capable if not steam-roller pack. They have suffered a lot of player turnover, with some retiring, many moving up the pyramid and a few off to Coventry. Add in a few players carrying knocks and the first game saw only five players who had played last season - but I am told players are coming back rom injury and last weeks squad looked more familiar to the DMP faithful. They have kept last season's coaching team, Danny Brown and John Newton, who both also played for the club - so there some contiuity. This season they have lost to at Hull Ionians, beaten neighbours Blaydon by a single point and won convincingly away at Ampthill.

We can expect a warm welcome from ex-Blood and Sand prop James Penman - though I doubt he will give his old club any favours once the whistle goes for the start of play.

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